It's a sad, sad story. I know, because I was there and I saw it happen...

There was this fellow I once knew who happened to be the frustrated conductor of an extremely mediocre local symphony orchestra. Few if any of the individual musicians could really be said to be players of professional quality; indeed, the only reason they had been accepted as members of this particular orchestra is because the city fathers wanted a local orchestra and, after all, they had to get their players from somewhere.

An area of particular concern for the poor conductor were they players in his bass section. Of all the would-be musicians in this rag-tag band, they were by far the worst; they rarely practiced at home, had difficulty keeping up with the rest of the band during joint practices, and had on occasion even been known to show up for those practices somewhat inebriated. 

For the orchestra’s final performance of the season, one of the city fathers had submitted to the conductor a special request. He asked that the band play his father’s favorite piece: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, one of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire and considered by many to be the composer’s greatest masterpiece. 

It had long been one of the conductor’s favorite pieces, as well, which is exactly why he had never previously allowed it to be performed by the orchestra. Among other things, this particular piece requires some degree of extra effort from the bass players at the end – and he knew in his heart of hearts that his bass players were not up to the task. 

But the city father was insistent, so the conductor reluctantly agreed. 

On the evening of the performance, he arrived to find that the bass players were indeed tanked; it seems one of them had birthday that same day, and he and his fellow players had celebrated by passing a bottle around. 

Already assured that the evening was doomed to be a catastrophe, the conductor nonetheless strode out before the audience and took his place at the podium. The band made it blandly through most of the piece, and as the ending drew near the conductor grew more and more nervous; when the time finally came to cue the bass players for the finale, the poor fellow had become so unnerved that he knocked over his music stand, scattering his sheet music scattered everywhere. 

And so there he stood with his worst fears realized: It was the bottom of the Ninth, with no score and the basses were loaded...